Friday, October 28, 2011

One Small Step...

It's a super busy time for me and the family lately.  My father is visiting as he and his wife pass through on their annual migration from West Virginia to Florida; my daughter has joined Girl scouts; my son is equally involved; and the "holidays" for us definitely starts pre-Halloween.  So my apologies if my blog time falters a tad and I seem to neglect my efforts to address melanoma awareness.

I wanted to share one quick note.  I had a business meeting the other day with a gentleman named Jim Downey.  I've known Jim for about 10 years now as he's worked in sales for product with which I'm directly involved.  I'd say that our relationship has become more of a friendship than that of strictly business acquaintances.  We know each other's favorite sports teams as well as various potlicial views.  We might not always see eye-to-eye, but we have a good respect for one another. And, he knows of this blog and my mission to spread awareness regarding melanoma.

At the end of our 20 or 30 minute discussion, he said he wanted to share something more personal.  He smiled and said, "After we'd talked in the past, I decided to go visit the dermatologist.  I want to thank you for insisting I visit."  It turns out nothing serious was found with Jim, but he did have some pre-cancerous spots removed from his scalp (actinic keratosis).  I was happy to hear of his relatively clean bill of health, but even more thrilled that he was inspired to get his skin checked in the first place.

Cleaning the house for family visits, helping a child learn a scouting oath, assisting another in a social studies project...they're all important but often overwhelming. It makes one wonder if the wheels are merely spinning in the mud and nothing is really moving.  But then one hears of something positive...an affirmation that at least one little step forward was made while attempting to raise melanoma awareness among all the madness of every day life.

That's what it's all about.  Making small steps.  Making people aware. 

Make sure you take one smal step each day to make others aware.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Thank You Barb!

I wanted to share a quick follow-up to my previous blog about spotting the black ribbon on a Breast Cancer Awareness display at the mall.

One of my many great readers on my Facebook page, Barb Maxwell, decided to contact the American Cancer Society regarding the use of a black ribbon.  Well, she got a response!

Thank you for sharing your important concerns with your American Cancer Society. Congratulations on your survivorship! I am truly sorry to hear about the loss of your friends to breast cancer, and understand and concur with your desire to see more done to raise awareness for melanoma, as well.

As black is melanoma’s signature color, I can see how the sign you saw could lead to confusion and frustration, and sincerely apologize for this oversight on our part. I appreciate your bringing this matter to my attention, and have made certain to forward your feedback on for further action.

The American Cancer Society takes the battle against melanoma cancer seriously, and works to fight the disease and its effects through research, education, advocacy, and patient services. If you are interested in opportunities to volunteer with the Society in promoting melanoma awareness, please reply to this message, and I will be happy to forward your request to our advocacy coordinator.

Thank you again for taking the time to share your thoughts with the American Cancer Society. Your feedback is invaluable.

Sarah
Online Cancer Information Specialist

Thanks Barb for taking my thoughts a step further!  Addressing such concerns more directly is the first step that all of us can make in increasing Melanoma Awareness.  This is certainly a lesson learned in advocacy!

Also thank you to the American Cancer Society for replying to Barb's concern.  Let's hope they truly "forward the feedback" and perhaps also have a more aggressive Melanoma Awareness campaign during OUR month of May.

And finally, thanks to all of you who have read my words and the thoughts of others and started discussions online, in person, and through email and advocacy campaigns.  Like the letter above says, there are opportunities to do more, through the ACS, MRF or any other such group.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

We'll Support Your Pink, But Let Us Keep Our Black!

I visited the Pink Palace today…otherwise known as the neighborhood mall.  My kids commented on how much pink there was and asked where the pumpkins and ghosts were since it's October.  I explained that it’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month and that many stores have special deals in which proceeds from sales go to breast cancer research and awareness.  I explained to them that it’s a good thing and that’s why so many people and stores participate.  And it is.
Then my daughter said, “Look daddy!  It’s YOUR ribbon!”  Sure enough, I looked at the Lady Footlocker display and saw this:

Well, obviously, it’s not “my” ribbon…it was part of a display for "Making Strides Against Breast Cancer."  Still, I was a little taken back in that breast cancer awareness is a pink RIBBON campaign…but here before me was a black ribbon associated with breast cancer awareness.
Melanoma awareness isn’t as established, and there’s a mixed of orange and black awareness colors, but the primary associated color is black.  Black ribbons represent many other things (mourning, remembrance, and gang prevention among others)…but when it comes to cancer, it belongs to melanoma awareness.
I understand the main color of the display was pink, with black lettering.  But when it comes to the actual ribbon…breast cancer awareness folks, PLEASE stick with pink.  We melanoma folks are having a tough enough time establishing our own presence without having our ribbon color be used by others.
(And for those that might call me hypocritical since I use the word “pink” in my own campaign, you may have a point.  But I've only used a black ribbon, with the exception of the black AND pink ribbon when discussing the genetic link between the two cancers.)

Monday, October 17, 2011

"...That's what you could do for me!"

Giuliana Rancic appears on the E! Network as co-host of “E! News” and “Fashion Police.”  She’s been appearing on a Style Network reality show where she and her husband Bill have been documenting their struggles with infertility and attempts to conceive via IVF.  In the most recent episode, she was seen heading into a clinic for her next round of treatment.  Knowing that hormones increase the spread of cancer, the doctor ordered a mammogram prior to the treatment...”just in case.”  They found breast cancer.
I know...we melanoma folks tend to have a bit of pink envy.  While supporting the fight against ALL cancer, we get a little riled at the high profile nature of breast cancer awareness over all others.  But I wanted to share this story because of a remarkable quote that Ms. Rancic shared. 
"I had a friend call me yesterday, and she said, 'I'm so sorry, can I do anything for you?' And I said, 'Just call your doctor tomorrow and make an appointment. That's what you could do for me.'”
That’s such a powerful statement and I think a message we’ve all conveyed.  The best thing someone else can do for us is make an appointment to get checked.  That’s all we’re trying to say!
Well, I take that back.  The melanoma bunch has a two-fold message.  “Get checked...and wear sunscreen!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Did You Hear?

Photo from executivehealthexams.com
© 2011 EHE, Inc. All rights reserved
Did you hear?  Governor Brown of California has signed a bill into law which bans tanning beds for minors!  This is incredible news!  But let me ask this again…did you hear? 
When I scan the internet for links for my Facebook page, I typically do Google and/or Bing searches for melanoma “news” and “videos.”  When word of Yervoy and other drugs came out, there were videos a plenty.  With this news from California, I saw plenty of links to news articles, but no videos.  There seemed to be no videos that aired on the broadcast news.  I eventually dug deeper and found one at CBS News.  Unfortunately, the text accompanying the video read “the health police are at it again.”  Hardly a glowing report on a potential life-saving decision.  It seems the broadcasting of this news was quite limited.
Next I checked a couple of major cancer organizations.  These aren’t just the melanoma people, but groups that encompass ALL cancers.  Since I recently “liked” this group, I looked at Stand Up 2 Cancer’s Facebook page.  Nothing.  Not one word.  I then looked at the American Cancer Society FB page.  As of right now, there is only one comment about the California law…and it’s posted by yours truly.
This is disturbing to me.   I feel like melanoma is the young teenager that still has to sit at the kids’ table during holidays.  Sure, this is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and the color pink has completely taken over this month (which ironically used to be about orange and black which just happen to be the two melanoma colors).  Perhaps the focus on Breast Cancer has these all-cancer organizations so focused on pink football cleats and pink Pringles containers that they simply didn’t notice this news that’s very important to the melanoma bunch.
Then again, it could be that these all-cancer groups don’t want to rock the boat.  After all, not everyone is celebrating this new law.  There is a HUGE tanning industry that just took a big hit and, frankly, many patrons of these solariums just don’t get it.  They believe the government is taking away a legal right to tan.  (Note, they only banned the use of tanning beds from minors…teens can still legally get skin cancer the old fashioned way under the sun).  I have to admit that I understand their argument.  I don’t agree with the tanners' point of view (because I’m informed of the truth) but I understand.  If it was determined that consumption of M&M’s caused mouth cancer and thus the sale of M&M’s was banned, I’d be fighting that decision to the Supreme Court.  But then again, maybe if there was overwhelming hard evidence from a number of medical organizations around the world, I might eventually be convinced to eat Skittles.
Thankfully, organizations like the Skin Cancer Foundation, MRF, and AIM at Melanoma are getting the word out and spear heading these new laws and campaigns.  Most of all, they’re working to educate people on the dangers of UV radiation and trying to get the point across that skin cancer is preventable by being sun and UV smart!
Did you hear that?  Preventable!  I hope others hear that as well.  

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Linked to Pink?

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  But did you know that Melanoma could have a direct link to the Pink Cancer?  It’s true!  An article in the Skin Cancer Foundation’s website explains how having one of these cancers raises the odds of developing the other.   (Thanks to the curator of Hotel Melanoma for bringing this to our attention).
Dr. Gillian Murphy of the Beaumont Hospital in Dublin, Ireland, states that patients with melanoma or other skin cancers have always been at higher risk of developing other malignancies , but with breast cancer, there’s a fourfold increase.  Per Dr. Gillian, this “raises the possibility of a genetic predisposition linking the two cancers.”
This is good news for a couple of reasons.  First of all, research for one type of cancer may now aid in research for the other.  Any little bit of new information we learn about one just may indeed help out the other.
The second reason is admittedly more selfish.  Melanoma Awareness needs a boost…and the Breast Cancer Awareness campaign is about a big a boost as a campaign can get.  In the month of October, you’ll see about as much pink as you will traditional autumn colors.  Whoever first marketed the idea for this pink awareness campaign was either a genius, a sales whiz, or really darned lucky.  But imagine…a small amount of proceeds from everything donning a pink ribbon goes to Breast Cancer Research or Awareness.  And not just t-shirts and hats, but candy, detergent, and even Chick-fil-A meals!  I know that there is never enough money for research, but by golly, the Pink Warriors have a good thing going.
This might sound like jealousy.  It’s not. Despite this blog’s name “Black is the New Pink,” I’ve had the utmost respect for the Pink Ribbon campaign.  No…not jealousy.  Envy.  Like an LA Clipper fan that envies the Lakers.  Like a NY Mets fan that envies the Yankees.  It’s not hate…it’s envy.  And in my case towards Breast Cancer Awareness, it’s respect.
I would love to see the Melanoma Awareness campaign be half as effective as the Pink Ribbon campaign.  Unfortunately, we have a few things going against us.  For one thing, the gurus that determined the cancer awareness ribbon colors assigned Melanoma the color black.  This is appropriate in that the word “melanoma” literally means “black tumor.”  But unfortunately, black ribbons also represent death and mourning.  Orange is an alternate color I’ve occasionally seen associated with Melanoma Awareness…but black dominates for now.  I doubt that Keebler would don the black ribbon on their packaging for fear the public would think the elves died. 

© Keebler...dead or alive

Another thing going against us is that non-melanoma skin cancer is so damned treatable.  This is a good thing if you discover your skin cancer is non-melanoma…but it’s a bad thing for melanoma’s street cred.  “It’s Just Skin Cancer.”  No…it’s not…but most folks just don’t get it.  Until they get it.  I don’t wish for non-melanoma cancers (such as basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma) to become more deadly, however the fact that they’re very treatable creates an ironic barrier for Melanoma Awareness Campaigners.
Partnering up, or perhaps merely riding the coattails of Breast Cancer Awareness might be Melanoma’s big break.  Whether it is or not, we at least have our small rebellious forces of Melanoma Warriors…screaming from our blogs and Miles For Melanoma events…and hoping to be heard.
In this spirit of breast cancer awareness, I’ve prepared a little treat.  I’m not a programming genius, but I made up a movie (my first attempt ever) with my own little take regarding the link between Breast Cancer and Melanoma.  I apologize for no sound to this movie.  It’s a little over a minute long, so the silence shouldn’t be too overbearing.  If any readers have some suggestions regarding a freebie soundtrack or enhancement, feel free to inquire and I’d be willing to make an adjustment.  Until that point, please enjoy what I’ve prepared…and by all means share it!

video